sayat nova: 1 post

Sayat Nova (The Color of Pomegranates)

“From the colors and aromas of this world, my childhood made a poet’s lyre and offered it to me.” Sayat Nova, Armenian poet (1712/22-1795)

Certain images stay with you. They are so indelibly etched into your mind that it’s hard to identify with precision when you have seen them for the first time. I remember the stone ramparts covered with books, their pages turned by the wind, the Persian rugs hanging on the brick walls, and the blue wool in the metal cauldrons. Sometimes my memory plays tricks on me suggesting that these vignettes are from my own life, that I myself have turned those large yellowing pages and smelled the hot, freshly dyed bundles. But, no, they’re scenes from Sayat Nova, a film by Sergei Paradjanov that I saw as a child.

sayat nova1

That I came across it in the Soviet Union of the 80s is unusual. The film was released in the Soviet Union in 1969 in a handful of cinemas and then it disappeared; its surrealism and religious imagery not meshing with the social realist message of the era. Four years later the director, Sergei Paradjanov, was sent to a maximum security prison on outlandish charges, which included “surrealist tendencies.” My stepfather was close with Paradjanov’s son, and perhaps that’s how I saw the film, peaking over their shoulders. Being aware of the director’s tragic fate while watching his masterpiece today makes for a poignant experience.

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